Saturday, April 30, 2011

This is the scenic overlook on US 441, where the highway tops out as it crosses these great Smoky Mountains. The elvation here is something over 5,000 ft.

I was looking off to the southwest when I took this picture.

this is the beginning of the drive as you enter the Smoky Mountain National Park from Gatlinburg, TN. It is beautiful.

Gatlinburg is a touristy place, right at the entrance to the Smoky Mountain National Forest. It looked like a place where you park and walk about from shop to shop, but we kept on our way, wanting to find a suitable place in western North Carolina before the day's end, so we would have only one more day for our drive into Bedford, Virginia, our destination.

We didn't go to the Dollywood theme park, but we did drive by the entrance and up the steep, steep hill above the park to a place that calls itself the Garden of Elen and parrot petting zoo.

These large parrots are supposed to talk, sing and dance for you. They were making their familier shrieking noises when we arrived and took a picture from the parking lot. We didn't see any dancing, or hear any singing or talking. Maybe they were waiting for us to pay some money. We drove on down the hill and headed for Gatlinburg.

Like Branson, Pidgeon Forge sports its own Titanic show place.

Wednesday, April 27, we found a comfortable room at one of the many, many hotels tht serve the visitors that flock to Dollywood and the surrounding attractions that exist in the nearby towns of Pidgeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg.

We drove about, but did not partake of the entertainments that are offered here. The Hatfields and McCoys Dinner Theatre woulld be representative of the many that line the main road through these three towns.

As we traveled toward Knoxville on Wednesday, April 27, we decided to take a look at Dollywood, located in Pidgeon Forge on the edge of the Smoky Mt National Forest. The storm clouds continue to gather as we drove along, but no serious storm overtook us.

We saw many lovely farms and homesteads on this journey toward the Smoky Mountain country.

Wednesday, April 27, we stayed on the local highways, avoiding the heavy traffic of the Interstate, as we traveled toward the Knoxville area. A yellow flower can be seen on the meadow grasses and fields as we passed through the rural farm lands of this south Tennessee region.

Wind and heavy rain passed through the Chattanoga area Tuesday night, after we were safe and snug in our hotel. We thought we would visit some of the natural wonders and historic sites the next morning (Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, Rock City, Missionary Ridge, etc.). We found the exists to these locations blocked on the Interstate, due to damage, downed trees and debris. Reports of more threatening weather and tornado activity prompted us depart Chattanoga and head toward Knoxville instead.

I took this picture Tuesday evening as I stepped out of a small Chinese restaurant with a to-go order to take back to the hotel. The rays of the setting sun illuminated a thunderhead east of this Lookout Mountain community near Chattanoga.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tuesday afternoon, April 26, after two very enjoyable days in Franklin, Tennessee, we headed south and east through increasingly more mountainous country, stopping for the night near Lookout Mountain outside Chattanooga. Beautiful, historic country!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Too much rain can be near-fatal to a boy from the Arizona desert!

"Look, grandma, someboy shrunk grandpa!!"

Actually, this is not trick photography. This is a huge chair inside the mall at a favorite tourist spot in Franklin, called the "Factory at Franklin." It is a collection of specialty shops and eateries, built inside an old stove manufacturing factory and warehouse.

Linda got a huge kick out of taking this picture for some reason.

Another lovely country home we passed by on the road back into Franklin from Leiper's Fork, Tuesday morning.

As we drove down these country roads near Franklin we just shook our heads in admiration for the beautiful estates, lovely homes and well-kept farms that exist in this part of Tennessee.

Linda, said, "If that house was for sale, you would have to buy it for me!"

Oh, yeah!

Here, in historic Leiper's Fork, being old and worn is not considered a negative. This old jalopy sits proudly in front of the town's busiest restaurant, right next to the out-door smoker (not shown).

An outdoor bowery, next to a Leiper's Fork eatery, vacant at the time we were there on a Tuesday morning, but obviously jammed with patrons in the evenings.
After a final visit to the Carnton Plantation we drove west and south of Franklin approximately 8 miles to a favorite tourist location, frequented both by out-of-towners and locals. It is a tiny town known as Leiper's Fork. Several of the residences and old business locations have been converted into eateries, antique shops, etc., all in the rustic style; this wood carver's place being an example.

The tree-lined avenue leading to the Carnton Plantation.

This is one of many lovely residential neighborhoods that exist in the area of Franklin, Tennessee. We regard this community as one of the most beautiful we have visited in our travels, both in the historic downtown and in the surrounding countryside.

If you are in Tennessee, you will find Franklin a very rewarding, refreshing place to tour.

Another beautiful home near the Carnton Plantation, south of Franklin.

Before leaving the area of Franklin, TN this morning, Tuesday, April 26, we drove back out to the Carnton Plantation so Linda could see the McGavock home and the nearby Confederate Cemetary.

During that drive down the tree-lined lane leading to the plantation we couldn't help but stop and take pictures of some of the beautiful homes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The disaster inflicted upon the McGavock family was repeated over the entire community of Franklin. The shattered armies moved on, leaving their dead and most of their wounded behind them as they engaged in another terrible conflict at Nashville.

The victorious Union army returned to Franklin and retrieved their dead and arranged for their burial in military cemetaries. The defeated rebel army was in dissaray

For the remainder of her life, Carrie McGavock would labor to have the confederate dead located and moved from their shallow mass graves on the battlefield and brought to this piece of ground near her home where every attempt was made to identify the remains and make contact with their surviving families. For many it was not possible, but for those she identified it was a great comfort to their families. She became known far and wide as "The Widow of the South." Her's is a story worth reading. What you see here in the picture I took today, April 25, is the largest private cemetary for military dead in these United States. It is located on the Carnton Plantation, just a short distance to the north and west of the McGavock home. It is now hallowed and sacred ground, a beautiful and peaceful setting that helps us to have faith that something good can come from something so bad.

One of the most compelling stories coming out of the Battle of Franklin centers on the actions taken by John and Carrie McGavock, residents of the home shown here, located on the outskirts of Franklin. Before the battle was over, four of the six Confederate generals who would die from wounds suffered during this conflict were laid side by side on the porch. Every spare inch of floor in every room but one was occupied by the wounded. They were even layed out upon the stairs and landings. The dead were placed in long rows in the yard. Doors were pulled from their hinges and laid on chairs to serve as operating tables. The pile of shattered appendages, amputated arms, legs, hands and feet were piled above the hight of the downstairs windows as the army surgeons did their brutal work with saw and knife. Mrs. McCavock, her husband and servants toiled for endless hours, using all their resources in an attempt to aid the medical staff and attend to the cry's of the dying.

At the Carter home our guide pointed out the long mound of earth which shows where the Union forces were "dug-in," awaiting the advance of the Confederate soldiers. This line, we were told, was actually a fall-back position with other breast works erected and manned further out to the south. Before the battle was over, late into the night, these very grounds were heaped with dead and wounded, both blue and gray, where they swarmed upon one another in hand-to-hand combat. As one historian has described: "This was a time of utter darkness,where the Devil held total sway upon the minds of men."

At the Carter house, our guide walked us over to the "battle side" of the home's out buildings. Their exterior walls still show the shell and bullet holes that cut trees in half and riddled every thing in sight on that fatal day.

Franklin, Tennessee is a lovely community, situated just south of Nashville. A Civil War battle took place here on November 30, 1864. There were tragic losses on both sides, but especially among the men of the Army of Tennessee who advanced en mass across open ground, south of the Union army's breast works.

This is the Carter home. The Carter's sought shelter in their basement as the battle raged all about them for 9 hours. The home shown here and the out buildings that are part of the property have been preserved as an historic site.

This one-day battle ended the great Army of Tennessee as an effective fighting unit, leaving over 15,000 of its brave soldiers dead or wounded. The subsequent battle, later at Nashville completed the destruction.

When we finally arrived in Franklin, Tennessee Sunday afternoon, I admit to being a little tired, but this guy I sat down beside in a place called the Franklin Factory, well, he was really, really tired!
We were hoping to have a more leisurely experience, viewing the sights on the trip down the Land Between the Rivers, but a woman who makes and sells her own fudge at a nearby shop, told us the radio was broadcasting a tornado warning and that we best find shelter.

We got back on the road south and made our way toward Clarksville where we found a room for the night, safe and sound as the storms rolled by, dropping heavy rain and setting off the alarm in our car during repeated strikes of lightning close by. All, just made to order for Linda, who enjoys a thunderstorm at least as much as her husband, if not more so.

While sharing a bbq pork sandwich we were joined by two canadian geese. There was a breeze blowing across the water. It looked a little choppy but it didn't seem to bother the geese or the fishermen, or the boaters.

Kerry Beyeler told us that as we headed down toward Nashville to be sure and take the time to depart from I-24 outside Paduka, Kentucky and drive down through the federal park known as "The Land Between the Rivers." So, we did. The sky was threatening, but the rain held off long enough for us to stop and have a picnic lunch on the shore of Barkley Lake during our drive down this beautiful federally protected park, which is entirely surrounded with water on three sides, extending from Kentucky into Tennessee, north of Clarksville. It was very enjoyable.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Only a few feet from the previous picture showing the approach to the bridge across the Mississippi, is this view, looking east towards the bridge that spans the Ohio as it meets the Mississippi here at Cairo, Illinois. We took this bridge, crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and continuing on toward a place described on the map as the "Land Between the Rivers." Water, water, water!

Saturday, April 23, we continued on east from Sikeston, crossing the Mississippi River at it's confluence with the mighty Ohio, at Cairo, Illinois.

This picture of the US 60 bridge, looking back, west from the Illinois side toward the river, does not begin to do justice to this "Father of Waters," especially at the near flood stage and with the Ohio coming together with the Mississippi at this location.

For those of us from the dry deserts of the west this is major water! It seemed we traveled for miles and miles on roads just a few feet above the level of these rivers and the backj water that runs well beyond the normal channels. The farm land which stretches for miles on both sides of the river, already seems saturated with water from the storms now so prevelant in the area.

Friday, April 22, we stopped for the night in Sikeston, Missouri, not far from the Mississippi River. The desk clerk at the hotel recommended we eat dinner at the nearby Lambert's Cafe, a famous restaurant where they throw dinner rolls at you. It was only a quarter-mile down the road.

What a place! Huge, with hundreds of diners and bus loads coming and going. It is very "country," with all kinds of memorabilia decorating the place, including hundreds of auto license plates tacked to the wall. The menu is southern cooking at its best. Large portions, and to-die-for hot rolls, which the waiters throw at you from across the room! No kidding, that's what they do, from 30-40 ft away. I dropped both rolls thrown to me and the waiter was not bashful about telling me, "Mr., you messed up!" Regardless of what you order (we shared a rack of ribs), they come by with pans full of "pass-arounds," they call them, sides of beans, peas, okra, tomatos and macaroni, fried potatos, etc, etc. It is considered the "Pig-out" capitol of the mid-west. If you ever get near the place you need to try it out. It is quite the culinary experience!

We said goodbye to Kerry and Brenda Friday morning, April 22nd. We could only say that our stay was all we could have possibly hoped for and more! What a wondeful, fun-filled three days!

Kerry gave us a detailed print-out showing the route we should take to traverse Missouri and make our way to Franklin, Tennessee, our next desired desitination (a famous Civil War battlefield Terry has been wanting to tramp about on for many a year).

Mostly using US60, we made a very pleasant drive across the south Missouri countryside, enjoying each and every mile. The weather was threatening at times with some rain and wind, but nothing serious like what happened further north near St. Louis, where tornados did so much damage.

This is another look at the Dutton Family, taken during their show, all playing the violin.

We saw another show, which I don't have any picture of. They prohibit flash photography during their performance. They are currently the most popular of all the many groups in Branson. They call themselves, "SIX." They are 6 brothers who do their entire show with no musical instruments involved of any kind, except for their own voices. They are so, so entertaining! You need to try them on, if you ever get the chance. You will not be disappointed!

Our final show was the Dutton Family, another great LDS musical family who has developed over the years of playing together. They are so talented. They each play multiple musical instruments and some of them have been recognized as the best at what they do. What a great evening!

In this picture they have everyone out on stage. The grandma and grandpa Dutton are toward the back on the far right. Everyone can sing, dance and play an instrument,

Do you think this table top is a little high?

When we were seated here in this restaurant after the George Dyer show, it all seemed very normal, but before the meal was over it had slowly risen to almost chin level! It is a trick they love to play on unsuspecting tourists such as ourselves. Of course, the Beyeler's were in on it, but acted totally innocent!

It made for a good laugh all around! Who can you trust, if you can't trust your friends?

To our surprise and delight, who should be on stage with George Dyer, playing keyboard in the band, but Wayne Leavitt!

When we talked with him afterward, he said had he known Linda Burnham Chapman was in the audience he would have given her a "shout-out!"

George and Wayne were companions in the mission field. Wayne quit his career as a seminary teacher to become George's stage manager and support with the band.

It was fun to visit with him after the show!

Thursday morning we were with the Beyeler's again, attending a 10 a.m. show, starring George Dyer. Here he is, posing with us and with his 21-yr-old daughter, after the show.

We remember George Dyer singing a solo during a Sacrament meeting some years ago, in our home ward in Mesa. He had come as a guest of members of the Leavitt family, with whom he continues to be closely associated.

This good man is a real talent. He has a voice of opratic quality, as fine a tenor as exists today, anywhere, and a great stage presence and entertaiment quality besides. We truly enjoyed his show and getting to meet him and members of his family.

Wednesday evening, April 20, we attended the Osmond Brothers show at their theatre in downtown Branson. Jimmy, who isn't always with them, was there that night. They are all getting older, but they are still so good at what they do. They are funny, and they can sing. It was great entertainment! What a fun time!

Kerry and Brenda carried their own insulated drink cups with them, into the park. They have learned that it saves them soome of the expense on purchases of liquid refreshment in the park. Presenting your own cup allows for a drink at a reduced price!

Ah, but it's good to be with the "locals," who know all the inside information.

One of the many shows taking place at Silver Dollar City while we were there was this young group of dancers and musicians from Canada, who call themselves "The Powerhouse." They are good!

Linda, in her handsome black hat, looking down on one of the many venues inside the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson.

What a fun, relaxing time for us, being here with our friends, the Beyeler's!

Wednesday morning, April 20, we were up early and off for a day at Branson's Silver Dollar City theme park. This entire area, we are told is honeycombed with underground limstone caverns, some with veins of silver and other precious metals; hence the name, "Silver Dollar City."

This was just about a perfect day, cool, mostly overcast, some sunshine but good for walking about for Linda, especially (she wore her new, black straw hat). the park is a little up and down, built as it is upon the natural, hilly terrain. It is a real fun, family park, with a variety of exciting roller coaster type rides (we didn't do that) and numerous live, musical entertainments. It would take more than a day to see it all.

this picture was taken as we entered the park Wednesday morning. Kerry is on the right in his red windbreaker. Brenda is just ahead in blue. They were so good to take us about to the different entertainments and help us from getting lost.

Here is a scene we would see over and over again, attending live performances by entertainment families in Branson. They bring their families with them and include them in their shows. It is such a wholesome, relaxed and fun-filled atmosphere! Great music, lots of energy and good humor. Always, in each show the entertainers take time for sincere tributes to men and women in uniform, love for country and respect for God and our freedoms.

Everyone who comes to these shows know these entertainment families are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of them are active members of the ward attended by Kerry and Brenda. You can just imagine the spirit in these meetings when they sing the hymns or participate in the ward choir!

Shortly after our arrival at the Beyeler's, Tuesday afternoon, they wisked us off to nearby Branson where we enjoyed a very entertaining performance by the Hughes Brothers.

This is one of the largest entertainment families performing in Branson. They have their own theatre. At different times in the show they invite all the members of their combined family, wives and children to join them on stage for some of their numbers. They are good and very entertaining!

Tuesday afternoon, April 19, after a very scenic drive north from I-40, beyond Fort Smith, Arkansas, along I-540 (what a great highway!) and with a few twists and turns on narrow, winding mountain roads, we arrived safely at our desitnation, the home of Kerry & Brenda Beyeler, in beautiful Reed's Spring, a resort community outside of Branson, Missouri. We got a great welcome and began that very evening to take in the sights and sounds of what must be regarded as the entertainment capitol of Mid-America!

In Arkansas, we made a stop for gas and noticed this sign, posting information on a bad check passer, naming the person for all to see.

You can run but you can't hide in Varner, Arkansas!

The further east we drove, entering northwestern Arkansas from Oklahoma, and heading toward Branson, Missouri, the more we saw the beautiful Dogwood tree blossoms along side the roadway. Such a delicate white or pinkish flower that embroiders itself among the green shades of the surrounding vegetation. We have nothing to compare to it in our environment in the west that I can think of.

We made it as far as Santa Rosa, New Mexico on our first day of travel, east on Interstate 40, and took a room for the night at a Holiday Inn Express on the east side of town. The desk clerk recommended the US 66 Cafe as a place for good chile rellanos. We took her advice but were disappointed. The cafe and service were nice, but finding Mexican food to our liking, even in New Mexico, can be tricky.

The next day, Monday, April 18, we crossed the Texas panhandle, not stopping in Amarillo, but continuing on I-40 to the outskirts of Oklahoma City, where Linda used a coupon from her "Room Saver" booklet to get us accomodations in a brand new Comfort Inn, just off the freeway.

This is a view of the sunrise over Oklahoma City, taken from our hotel room the next morning, Tuesday, April 19.

As we obtained our breakfast in the hotel, later that morning, a television special was showing the memorial services taking place at the Murrah Federal building site, where so many inoccent victims lost their lives to an act of domestic terrorism on this date, 15 years ago. It was very sobering to view this scene of the survivors and the families of the fallen, who had gathered with others of their fellow citizens to the remember what happened on that fateful day. It reminded us again that our freedoms are not free but are purchased for us by the blood and sacrifice of so many others. These good people in Oklahoma City and the State of Oklahoma have pledged never to forget.

Whenever I ask Linda to pose for a picture during our travels, she takes the camera from me and takes my picture instead.

So, here I am, after we stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Gallup, New Mexico for a bite to eat on the first day of our journey, April 17.

The Cracker Barrel has become a favored eating place because of its many, many restaurants, scattered across the country, almost always situated in sight of the freeway. They are always reliable, clean, good food and reasonable prices.

Sunday, April 17, found us again on the open road, leaving our home in Snowflake, Arizona on the first leg of a journey across country to first visit Linda's life-long friend Brenda (Reed) and her husband Kerry Beyeler in Branson, Missouri. From Branson we planned to stop at historic sites in Tennessee and other places in the South, finally arriving in Bedford, Virginia for a visit with Elmer & Sue Hodge and members of the Bedford Branch of the LDS Church. The Hodges have been storing items of our personal property ever since the completion of our Mission there in June of last year. This is our excuse to see them and the dear people of Virginia once again.

This was taken as we left Snowflake and headed north toward Holbrook across the vast openness of Arizona's northeastern plateau - not greatly changed for thousands of years. This is the land of the Navaho; of petrified forests, meteor craters, painted deserts and long, open, dry and uninhabited landscapes. My mother's father, Joseph S. Burk, freighted mail and drygoods across these lonely stretches between Springerville, St. John's and Holbrook, using team and wagon, keeping eye on the weather and hoping not to be caught on the open prarie in a blizzard where no protection could be had. the snows did catch him on one ocassion and he buried himself down in a snowdrift with his mail sacks and waited out the storm. His family and friends, knowing the storm had caught him on the trail, where amazed and grateful when he made it safely home.